A Confederate holiday stops Georgians from voting on one weekend of early voting

Townhall Media/Chris Queen

The Georgia Senate race has gone into overtime. Incumbent Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, ended up less than a point apart in the general election. Warnock was up over Walker but he didn’t hit the 50% mark needed to avoid a run-off. So, here we are, waiting for the last senate campaign to be sorted out in a run-off scheduled for December 6.

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There will be early voting available to Georgians who don’t want to vote on Election Day. However, there will not be early voting available on a weekend during the run-off because of a state holiday. As it turns out, that state holiday is one that honors Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Awkward. Two black men are vying for one U.S. Senate seat to represent the people of Georgia and early voting falls during a state holiday for a Confederate general. I’ve spent most of my life living in the Deep South, including Georgia, and I don’t recall this being an issue.

Georgia state law prohibits Saturday voting within two days after a holiday. The only Saturday in the early voting period is the one that follows Thanksgiving. That also happens to be the time of an additional holiday, the one that honors General Lee’s birthday. Irony abounds. The president of the Georgia NAACP responded, “A Confederate holiday,” said Gerald Griggs, president of the Georgia NAACP, “should not prevent the protection of democracy, which is called voting.”

New election integrity reforms passed by the Georgia Legislature have shortened the timeline of run-off races. The run-off must take place just four weeks after the general election. The reasoning for the shortened timeline by the law’s Republican authors is that the previous timeline was “exhausting to candidates, donors, and voters alike.”

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The new law also states that early voting should start “as soon as possible” but has to begin eight days ahead of the runoff — or, this year, Nov. 28.

Counties are allowed to open balloting earlier if they are able. Weekends give a chance for people who work weekdays to vote early, but this year they might not have that option.

Charges of voter suppression are being lobbed from critics. Georgia has the right thing in mind. Voting in the United States is no longer an Election Day event. Now we have early voting going on for weeks before an election. It’s chaotic and unnecessary. A week before a run-off should be plenty time, don’t you think?

The Georgia state law says that counties can’t hold early in-person voting on Thanksgiving or two days after a federal holiday, Friday and Saturday. Only some urban counties offer Sunday voting. This could depress turn-out, which conventional wisdom says tends to favor Republicans.

What about military and overseas voters? They use a ranked choice absentee ballot to rank all possible candidates before the primary or general election. This allows their preferences to be used in a possible run-off. The new law specifies other changes, too.

The new law gives the State Election Board the power to remove and replace local officials if an investigation finds local officials have repeatedly violated state election law or rules. This caused concerns that the Republican-controlled state board could exert more influence over the administration of elections, including the certification of county results.

There were also prohibitions on handing out “any money or gifts” — to include food and drink — to anyone standing in line to vote, a specificity that critics cast as needlessly cruel.

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That food and water kerfuffle was easily discredited though the media likes to bring it up at every opportunity to paint Republican lawmakers as ogres. Water and/or snacks can be made available to people standing in long lines but not from campaigns. That breeches electioneering laws. There can be a table set up or some kind of station made available if needed. It should be noted that during the general election, the Georgia elections ran smoothly and there were no reports of long lines with people waiting for hours in line to vote. The voter suppression trope about election integrity reform legislation was just a convenient Democrat talking point that did not turn out to be true.

We should all keep current on the Georgia run-off race. It’s important, even though Democrats will have a majority in the Senate. If Herschel Walker wins the run-off he goes to Washington and puts the brakes on the Democrats’ actions. That means that Democrats have to equally share power in committees and that’s a big deal. Otherwise, Democrats will be emboldened to push through whatever Biden wants, and the progressives he seeks to pacify. With a Republican majority in the House and a Democrat majority in the Senate that has to work equally with Republicans, Joe Biden’s radical agenda can be held at bay in Congress. That’s the best we can hope for after the red wave never materialized.

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024
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